The sharpening stones listed in this post are not the only sharpening stones for kitchen knives, just a small selection available from this online store for those after simply one or possibly two stones (without it getting overly complicated).
Belgian Blue (BBW):
The Belgian blue stones give a very nice edge to knives and are long lasting natural stones making them a good option to consider for your kitchen knife sharpening needs. BBW stones come with a slurry stone. Using a slurry will allow this Belgian whetstone to work across a wider ‘grit’ range (than using just water alone which is more polishing) and using this slurry will assist in the sharpening process. You start with slurry and move down to water alone.
Coticules are mined alongside the BBW stones above, but are rarer. Like the BBW, coticules are very nice natural stones to work with. Coticules also provide on average a faster cutting speed (although they both have garnets embedded in the stone to produce the cutting action, the garnets are just more concentrated on the coticule giving it a faster steel removal rate). Like the BBW stones, the coticule uses a slurry to increase its grit range also.
Ordering any Belgian stone as a ‘one and only stone’ for your sharpening needs will only be effective for those who keep a regular sharpening routine and do not allow their knives to get too blunt. Like any stone (natural or synthetic, any one stone can only do so much).
Arkansas stones are both called oil stones and water stones. Unlike the above two Belgian stones, you can decide which you prefer to use. Arkansas stones are available in medium, fine and ultra fine. For newer harder steels, Arkansas can be a little slower than the Belgian stones when used with newer steels with a high Rockwell, other than that – they are also great to use and wear very very slowly (the slowest of all stones).
If you want to use a progression, rather than a slurry on your stones, the Arkansas are a nice alternative.
As many kitchen knives are quite long, it is better (simply easier) to use a stone at around 20cm in length or longer. This gives a good runway length to use when making passes with your knife over the surface. If you are unsure if the size stone you are interested in is the correct size (for you), you can do a mock-up of the stone surface area (e.g: 20 x 5cm) with cardboard. This just allows you to see the size surface you will be working with.
If you find your kitchen knives get extremely dull or chips/nicks in the blade, a synthetic lower grit stone is always recommended to begin the process (more efficient – eg: 320).
An alternate option to naturals are of course water stones. The Shapton professional series range of whetstones which are a wonderful whetstone to use. Like the above natural stones, they are simply wet and go, no pre-soaking is required. These stones also come in plastic storage cases that double as stone holders!
The Shapton professional (and glass range (from Japan) works well on all steels. For general kitchen duty the Shapton 1000 pro or 1000 Glass is a good versatile stone suitable for those after one stone for their kitchen knives.
The 1000 grit will help bring a dull edge back (if chipped a lower grit will be needed e.g.: 320 or Kirschen) and keep it working sharp. The one benefit of synthetic stones is you can always add to your sharpening routine lower (more coarse) or higher (finer) grit stones if you feel it is necessary. If you wish to refine and polishe the edge further you can of course look into the 2000 and 5000 , 8000 pro series or 3000, 6000, 8000 grit glass series stones.
Yes, you can use a synthetic with a natural. If you want to use a synthetic course grit for initial sharpening then jump to an Arkansas, Belgian Blue or Coticule that is fine. You can also use the pro series with the glass series! See mixing whetstone brands .
Whether you select the natural or synthetic sharpening stones for your kitchen knives, for many kitchen tasks some knives may work best with some ‘teeth’ left on the edge. Moving up the scale to the higher grit stones (polishing) may not always be necessary for certain cutting tasks (your preference is however the decider).
Due to the wide range of tasks a kitchen knife may encounter and the variety of stones available, only these options are discussed here, however you can email me if you wish to get any further details. Again, if you wish to get a highly refined and polished edge on your knife, a finer grit stone should be considered (or the leather bench strop). Stropping (like the old-time barbers used) helps to remove those teeth on the edge giving a more polished and in turn sharper edge. Stropping in itself does not sharpen steel like the stones do!
More on sharpening grit progression and suggestions here: Sharpening Stones